Arabian oryx

Oryx leucoryx

TAXONOMY

Antilope oryx (Pallas, 1777), Arabia. Monotypic. OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Oryx d'Arabie; German: Arabischer spiessbock; Spanish: Orix de Arabia.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Body length 5.3 ft (160 cm); shoulder height 2.7-3.4 ft (81-102 cm); tail 1.5-2 ft (45-60 cm); 143-165 lb (65-75 kg). Horns 1.6-2.2 ft (50-68 cm). Sandy pelage.

DISTRIBUTION

Formerly, found in most of Arabian Peninsula, Sinai Peninsula, Israel, Jordan, and Iraq. Reintroduced to Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel.

HABITAT

Barren steppes, semideserts, and deserts; prefers gravel plains and fringes of sand desert.

BEHAVIOR

Lives in groups of 2-15, led by adult bull. Bulls establish territories when conditions permit; bachelor males are solitary. Moves toward rain, sometimes for hundreds of miles (kilometers), to find food.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Eats primarily grasses; also herbs, buds, leaves, fruit, and roots. Can exist for weeks without water.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Polygynous. Gestation period 8.5-9 months; young born at any time of year. Weaning after 3.5 months; attains sexual maturity at 1.5-2 years. Lifespan up to 20 years.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Endangered; CITES I. Saved from extinction by captive breeding in zoos. The last wild individuals were probably killed in 1972. In the 1950s, efforts were made to establish captive herds in Arabia. In 1962, several were exported to the United States to be placed in a breeding facility in the Phoenix Zoo, Arizona. Successful reintroductions began in Oman in 1982 and there are more than 3,000 animals in captivity in North America. Recently, poaching has become a serious problem and, in 1996, Oman's reintroduced population was reduced to about 130 animals. The demand for captive animals in the region is a major conservation problem.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Hunted to the brink of extinction for its meat, hide, and exquisite horns. ♦

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